UWRF pep band

Tom Barnett, UW-River Falls marching band director, leads the UWRF pep band at Smith Stadium at Ramer Field in October 2022 prior to the start of a home game against UW-Eau Claire. This fall, UWRF will restart its marching band program after more than 30 years without such a band at the university. The marching band will perform at Ramer Field, pictured in the background, for pre-game and halftime performances.

More than three decades after it last appeared on campus, the University of Wisconsin-River Falls is getting ready to strike up the marching band again.

The Marching Falcons will be directed by trumpet Professor Tom Barnett, director of UW-River Falls’s athletic bands and make appearances at university football games and other events beginning in the fall. The last time a UW-River Falls marching band took the field at the university was more than 30 years ago before budget constraints ended the program around 1990.

“A marching band brings so much spirit and excitement to university and community events,” UW-River Falls Chancellor Maria Gallo said. “The program also provides another quality co-curricular experience to our students who have told us for years they would like to participate in marching band if we offered it. This is a response to that need.”

Barnett has been the driving force behind the return of the marching band. Since he began teaching at UW-River Falls in 2001, he has heard many requests from potential students to have a marching band.

“The Marching Falcons will bring back a proud tradition at UW-River Falls,” Barnett said. “This area has such a rich tradition of high school marching band success, it just makes sense to have a UWRF marching band. We’re trying to create a diverse student group that will span potentially all the majors on campus.”

The Marching Falcons will also have a color guard allowing for more students to get involved with the group.

The marching band has been restarted with a $100,000 lead gift from UW-River Falls alums Pat and Dave Stone to buy instruments and storage, Barnett said.

“It’s been a long time coming,” Pat Stone, who played in the marching band for two years when she attended UW-River Falls in the mid-1970s, said. “Music is the universal language of all other studies. It brings a sense of unity. Marching band is a place for non-music majors to get plugged in. It is also a source of family at the university.”

The marching band will perform at football events, including the Homecoming Parade, as well as other special events around campus, Barnett said.

A marching band class is planned for students to earn credit and better prepare for the band, Barnett said. The band will be marching basic maneuvers. The goal is to build the band and potentially join band competitions as the band becomes more seasoned. There will be an application process but no formal auditions.

UW-River Falls has a pep band with more than 40 members that play at football games and traveled to the inaugural Culvers Isthmus Bowl when UW-River Falls defeated Washington University in St. Louis 48-27 in November 2021. The game marked the first postseason college bowl game in Wisconsin state history and the first bowl game in UW-River Falls football program history.

The university also has a symphony band, jazz band and ensemble groups. UW-River Falls offers a bachelor’s degree in liberal arts music and a Bachelor of Music Education degree.

UW-River Falls is continuing its fundraising efforts to support the Marching Falcons. To donate, go to uwrf.edu/give/marchingfalcons.cfm.

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